Notes On Mark’s Gospel (116)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Saturated With His Presence (Chapter 14 V 12-26)

The question of where the Passover is to be observed is specifically answered by Jesus (vv12-13). The address, or name of the person who owns the house is not mentioned. For reasons of privacy? But obviously the two sent, Peter and John themselves know. Therefore Jesus and his disciples would be able to celebrate the Passover in complete security. The disciples are to rendezvous with the house owner, who is obviously a disciple of Jesus himself (v14), and will have prepared a room for them. It was just as Jesus said it would be (v15). Everything was prepared for this memorable and so very important occasion, monumental for these men (v16).

This is the final pre-resurrection teaching session, which of course John in his gospel brings out more fully. For eleven of these men who have come to a living experience of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, they are about to be taken further, deeper. Their experience of Christ is an ever-increasing one of intimate acquaintance, something that takes not just physical preparation, like the supper, but spiritual. To achieve this it may take some hard work, perhaps a break with some former beliefs, a lifeless orthodoxy and tradition that pervades many Churches today. Yes, and that could be hard work, it could maybe cost you some friends. But O to have Jesus for an intimate closer friend, would it not be worth it? It might mean for some, jettisoning the cheap values of the fallen world in which we live. Becoming totally detached in spirit from all that unbelievers hold so dear, and cling to. Setting ourselves free, and allowing ourselves the complete and simple enjoyment of Jesus. It may mean us learning, or perhaps re-learning the art of long and loving meditation upon his person, his majesty. The chorus “Majesty” has been sung endlessly by many, but how many really feel, live in, or under the sense of that majesty, how much of a reality is his majesty in our daily lives? The main focal point of most Christians lives today is self, and just like Judas it betrays the one who loved us and gave himself for us. There is continually a death to die (Galatians 2.20). It is costly, like Mary’s worship (vv1- 10), but the fragrance in heaven is beautiful, and the closer you get to him, the more it will affect others around you in and out of the Church community. O for our lives to be filled with God (Ephesians 5.18), saturated with his presence.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes On Romans (30)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Don’t Just Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk (Chapter 6 v 1-14)

The result of what has been said is this following exhortation (vv11-14). How as Christians we ought to live for God (v11), not allowing sin to reign (v12), yielding our bodies as instruments to righteousness (v13). Because sin’s dominion is broken, we are not under the law’s condemnation now, we have been justified by grace (v14). Is not this what the world needs to see from Christians today, the reality of Christianity, the power of the gospel in practical living, the out working of all this great theology? A renewed, revitalised, and purified Church? I guess perhaps if we had more Christians in our Churches we could do a lot more things, and a big Church after all is very impressive, is it not? Is it not more important that we be better Christians than have more Christians? Lives that people take notice of? If we really want the next generation that will take over from us to be fervent, vital Christians then we must sow the seeds of that in their lives now, and we will only do that if we are what we should be, living as Paul demands here. You want a better Church? Then be a better Christian. It will never be any better than we are ourselves. You see we can speak about, confer about, even preach about moral and spiritual reformation, but that never gets past the intellectual, it does not cost a thing that’s why it is so easy, but actually do it? Be godly? That costs, that draws persecution and criticism, even from other Christians, that is uncomfortable, and for some too much so.

     You can talk about Christ’s death and resurrection, but Paul is saying here you need to get involved, in his death and resurrection, yes, you personally. The moment you approach that cross, just a glance of a believing heart and you see immediately the need for renewed repentance (Revelation 2.5). You see the need for self-denial, to take up your cross again and follow him faithfully (Luke 14.27). You begin to realise that there is far too much of the world far too close to you (Galatians 6.14). You see the traces of pride that need to be broken under the Saviour’s humility (Philippians 2.5-11). You begin to see again the need to watch and pray (Matthew 26.41), you begin see that all the talking about his death and resurrection is not the same as heart involvement, is not the same as Spirit-filled commitment to them (Romans 8.5-6). That Spirit-filled commitment is nothing short of abiding in Christ, obeying that is, his commandments, meditating in and doing his word continually, a full orbed obedience to God’s whole, entire revelation. Now only grace (v14), only pure gospel grace will do it. Grace which removes the curse of the law, breaks the power of its condemnation, unites us to Jesus Christ, and fills us with spiritual power, energy, enabling us to trample upon a life-style that is sub-Christian, unholy.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (115)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

The Cost of a Slave (Chapter 14 Verses 1-11)

The reason for this anointing is given by Jesus (v8), and it would seem from Jesus’ own words that it was a conscious act on Mary’s part. The fact that Jesus had mentioned again and again his violent death, and that his disciples had not grasped it, does not rule out the possibility that one of them perhaps did. And understand it clearly, for this the sweet fragrance of Mary’s perfume shall and has filled the world (v9). It was following this tremendous act of worship that Judas’ treacherous act of treason is related (vv10-11), a stark contrast, revealing the true extent of his wicked heart. It seems he goes directly following the supper at Bethany, and notice too, that he goes directly to the religious high command, the chief priests. He obviously had access to them, and one wonders for just how long, for such access is not gained in five minutes. So we assume he knows only too well their intentions and goes to them with the specific purpose of betraying Jesus (v10). A cold-blooded mercenary. Note also the tragic phrase used over and over in the gospels, “one of the twelve,” raised so high by Jesus, and yet brought so low by the devil. An apostolic throne for a hellish hole. What would you give in exchange for your soul (Matthew 16.26)? Thirty pieces of silver?

What a delight to the ears of the Sanhedrin (v11), here is one of his intimate followers ready to sell him out. That money must have weighed awful heavy in Judas’ bag, for it sunk him into the deepest pits of hell, eventually. No more than the price for accidentally killing a slave (Exodus 21.32). But then Jesus was a slave in a sense (Philippians 2.5-11; Mark 10.45), a step down so immense for us, and to be sold by one of his own twelve in Calvary’s market place. And all because he loved us so (Ephesians 3.17-18). Judas now waited for his chance (v11b). Think too though of these high priests, of their wickedness, and how often it seems proved that the loftier, the holier the man seems, the more rotten his real moral character actually is. And how many authorities, ecclesiastical too, have sold Jesus for even less than thirty pieces of silver since? These men along with Judas are guilty of the supreme sin (John 1.10), they never felt Jesus’ all-pervading presence, or saw the light, or heard his voice of love entreating them (Matthew 11.28-30). Like so many today, profane, materially minded, blinding them to the realities of the world to come.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes On Romans (29)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

It’s a Done Deal (Chapter 6 Verses 1-14)

There is something else believers ought to know and that is that we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection in our baptism (v5). Those two aspects of his saving work are mighty deeds, conclusively historical facts, but he did so, so that we might, through him, enter new life. One facet assures the other, his death equals our death to sin his resurrection equals our being raised to new life. So we ought to know (vv6-7) that the old man, the sinful self has been crucified, dead and buried. As believers we are not made up of the old man and the new man as some say, for the old self is dead, Paul says so here, now if he is dead, he is dead, finished. So that there be a decisive break with sin, and that is confirmed in Paul’s other letters too (Ephesians 4.22-24; Colossians 3.9-10). Now because the old sinful self is dead, we are liberated, no longer slaves to him, the power of sin has been broken (v7). In the same way as with physical death, a person’s life is over, even so, from the moment we were united to Christ and died in and with him, that old sin-life was over. Well, this is the effect here sin’s power is dead, concluded for the believer, in the atoning death of Christ.

     If that be the case (vv8-10), if we have embraced these great gospel salvation facts by faith, which should be basic knowledge for every Christian, then the joyous results of them are ours personally too. If he took your sinful self upon himself in his death, then you died, not like, but with him, and were also raised with him in his resurrection. In his death he dealt with the cause of death, sin, and having defeated sin, rose gloriously from the tomb dealing the death-blow to death’s stranglehold over us (v9). Now what the Lord Jesus accomplished on that cross, he accomplished conclusively, this very important fact must be grasped, the sufficiency of his atonement (Hebrews 7.27; 9.12, 26, 28; 10.10; 1Peter 3.18). “It is finished,” he triumphantly cried (John 19.30), and his resurrection is the proof that that is so (Romans 1.4). Now the result of this is that the man Christ Jesus, resurrected, ascended and enthroned with glorified humanity lives forever in the presence of God, and that for us. Our access into communion with God is mediated in the death of Jesus, and our ongoing communion is mediated through the life he lives to God. The man Christ Jesus our only mediator (1Timothy 2.5), in his death and in his life he stretches out to us and embraces us, drawing us ever and again into the presence of God. What a great High Priest to have, what a Saviour to have!

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (114)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!


The Sweet Smell of Worship
(Chapter 14 V 1-11)

The planning and scheming of evil continues (vv1-2). But of course nothing must interfere with their fair show of religion (v2). You can murder, but not on religious days. Meanwhile in sweet contrast (v3), we have this beautiful act of worship by this un-named woman, who is generally thought to be Mary, Magdalene, that is. Of course it was the thief Judas who did the moaning about cost (vv4-5; John 12.6), and pretends he cares for the poor. Judas cares for no- one accept himself. She, Mary breaks the perfume and pours it out upon Jesus in the most lavish way. But is not that a lovely picture of just what Jesus has done for his people? His body broken on the cross, his blood poured out over us, for our forgiveness, a sweet fragrance in heaven (Ephesians 5.2). This beautiful act and mood of devotion takes cultivating. It is an awareness of living in the constant presence of Jesus, of holding inward conversation with him, of private worship in Spirit and truth (John 4.24).

Jesus shelters, protects Mary from the critics (v6), and calls her act of worship beautiful. That is an interesting description. Is that how God would describe our worship of him? That necessitates a heart that is beautiful, adorned with love for Jesus, pure in every part.

“O cleanse my heart and make it pure,
Each thought that’s not of Thee;
Let love for Christ o’er power and cure,
My heart a sanctuary.
O rule my heart, with sovereign power,
Subdue and drive out sin;
My mind control, Your grace take o’er,
And Jesus’ love to win.
(James R Hamilton, 14th, April, 2004)

A heart that issues in worshipful acts that are beautiful. Notice that Mary does not defend herself. Our worship will speak for itself, let Jesus defend you too, if it is done before the Lord you have nothing to fear, critics there will always be, to the impure heart nothing is pure (Titus 1.15). The disciples have only a few more days in which to grasp this unique occasion of worshipping Jesus in his physical, tangible state (v7), there will be an abundance of opportunity to help the poor. This glorious opportunity to serve in this way, came to Mary (v8), she was ready, and she embraced it, as best she could. It is so important that we are spiritually sharp, on the ball, walking with the Lord. Would it not be sad if we missed such an opportunity? You just do not know when it will come. Be ready at all times. Simply with who you are and with what you have got, that is all. He loves and delights in your offering.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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Notes On Romans (28)

“Wrestling With Romans”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!

Changed and Changing (Chapter 6 Verses 1-14)

Does all this mean that we can just go on sinning freely (v1)? Well, that would be the foolish logic of some, would it not? No, says Paul, most definitely not (v2). To come to such a conclusion would be mentally, morally, and spiritually unsound, it would certainly reflect a lacking in knowledge (v3), as to the operations of redemption. The Apostle points out that the very significance of their baptism would tell them otherwise. Their baptism was the sign and seal of the covenant benefits wrought by the Lord Jesus in his death. He died for their sin, and they died to sin, the sin-life ended there, or it should have (Romans 3.25; 5.6-11). We heard the message, the word of life, we believed, entering new life in Christ, everything that is pictured in the baptismal rite. Now because we are the beneficiaries of Christ’s death, the dynamic effect of his atonement is not only that we die to sin, but live in newness of life (v4), just as he rose from the dead (John 3.5; Titus 3.5). The question is asked (v3), know ye not? Now as Christians we should know the significance of our baptism. Perhaps this is an area the Church ought to address, educating folk sufficiently in the basics of the faith. In the early Church these basics were taught through catechising baptismal candidates, certainly so in the case of adults, so that when they were baptised, they knew clearly why, and what the significance of their baptism was. In the case of baptised infants we assume their godly parents have fulfilled their covenant responsibilities in catechising their children as they have grown up.

     So, instead of carrying on living in the old sinful ways, we live out the new life given to us in Christ. To carry on in sin is to be without spiritual life, and therefore without any spiritual activity whatsoever. Our life, both the physical, and the spiritual which is unseen, show themselves in a thousand different ways, people are able to see a change has occurred, the old has gone, the new has arrived (2Corinthians 5.17; Ephesians 2.5-6). This new life reveals itself in a new value life-style, there is ongoing repentance resulting in holiness of life. There is constant renewal of life, being filled with, and changed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5.18). There is the constant work of restoration that all can see going on. Like the shop that is being renovated, it has a sign for all to see, UNDER REPAIR, SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE. Every Christian should wear one of those signs for we are constantly under repair, being restored to the image of God throughout our remaining lives. There is a call for us to be continually refreshed too (Acts 3.19), for God’s love to be poured into us repeatedly (Romans 5.5), and an experiential knowledge of that joy unspeakable (1Peter 1.8). That comes to us as we walk in covenant obedience to the Lord, in the way of repentance and faith.

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)

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Notes On Mark’s Gospel (113)

“On Your Mark”

The way, the truth and the life!
The way, the truth and the life!


Nobody Knows the Time
(Chapter 13 V 1-37)

The Lord returns to the original question (vv28-31), when will these things happen (v4)? The accent is on proximity, it is close, imminent, says Jesus, when you see the Temple sacrilege (v29), and following hard on its heels will come judgment. Just as the coming of summer is imminent with the leafing of the fig tree. So when you see the appalling sacrilege of the Temple, that is the signal, be ready, bags packed, travelling light, no comb, no toothbrush, just get out. The affirmation (v30) refers to the prophetic announcement made regarding Jerusalem (v2), which will be witnessed by the disciple’s contemporaries. All that has been affirmed here by Jesus is reaffirmed (v31), because all that may be said of God, may be said of Jesus, he is the Messiah, the Son God, Son of Man, who knows and declares here that his word has more durability than the heavens and the earth. The latter, the heavens and the earth, in the end, will be cataclysmically destroyed, but not, never Jesus and his words (Psalm 102.25-27; Isaiah 40.6-8; 51.6). So Jesus applies all he has said with a very solemn call to be vigilant (vv32-37). Now he knows, he has told them, given them the signal for the coming judgment on Jerusalem, but now he speaks of the coming of the Son of Man, the end. No one knows when, not even the Son (v32; Acts 1.6-7). It will come so suddenly, so unexpectedly that vigilance and confident faith are required of the Church at all times. The coming of the Son with his holy angels and the consequent judgment are irrevocably set by the Father. Simply the sovereign decision of the Father. He will one day, one moment turn to his Son who is at his right hand and say, “go my Son, finish it”.

So (vv33-36), see to it, that your eyes are open, wide awake and alert, praying unceasingly in true faith (v33). We have been left with responsibility (v34), we have been given gifts and graces, we have been left work to do in the household of Jesus’ Church, and all the time we should be doing it with an eye to the Lord returning. Now there are many people who are so sure they know just exactly when the Lord is going to return, so sure that they cannot think or talk about anything else. Well Jesus says you do not (v35). Are you listening to him, you do not! The dullness and lack of responsive spirituality of our day suggests some are asleep (v36). The warning is given to all Jesus followers not just those of his own day, or the Apostles. To us, Jesus says. “watch and pray” (v37)!

(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)

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